Hannibal Lecter has always been a character who has truly found himself to be rooted deep in the world of horror. He’s a psychological horror icon and a character that’s a household name in the industry. There are parodies, references, and even content that’s being made that’s regarding Lecter’s character. The recent series, starring Mads Mikkelsen is just one example of that. Yet, somehow, Hannibal Rising (2007) passed under my radar. I did not realize there was any such film that existed, and after I finished watching it, I realized why no one actually talks about it!
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The Movie Review
The Lecter family flees the Nazis during World War II in Lithuania and takes refuge in their secluded home in the woods. The entire family perishes during a combat between a German airplane and a Russian tank on the farm, with the exception of the boy Hannibal and his infant daughter Micha. Later, when the house is besieged by five marauders and the Russians in a harsh winter without food, Micha is eaten.
The Russian army discovers the traumatized Hannibal, who is then fostered in an orphanage until he reaches adolescence. In Paris, where he meets his aunt Murasaki, who is teaching him martial arts while he lives with her, Hannibal manages to escape the Iron Curtain. He enrolls in medical school and intends to exact revenge on his sister’s killers after discovering a lead.
Alright, so let me get this right, someone decided that an origin story for Hannibal Lecter was important. Okay, I can understand that, he’s an iconic horror legend so it would be cool to know how he got there. However, that someone also decided that this would be a film where a young Hannibal Lecter is literally an action hero, whose childhood trauma is the only reason why he’s a cannibal, and aside from that, he’s also a skilled martial artist who hunts down Nazis with his katana. Sometimes I don’t understand Hollywood, who decides that this sort of bastardization of an age-old IP is necessary?
The phenomenal psychological thriller, The Silence of the Lambs, was a neo-noir with victimization that evoked morbid fantasy and dread within the audience. It featured some Oscar-winning acting, fiery cinematography that both grossed you out and immersed you and precise direction that all worked together to make us feel completely out of our minds. Sadly, Hannibal Rising lacks such intricacies. The acting is generally overdone, the storyline is generic, and it doesn’t convey either terror or thrills. It is a protracted movie that groans from a lack of forward motion.
The first half of the story contains some weak spots, but the second half is much better. Having an Asian aunt raise him is not entirely credible in terms of lore, but I also like seeing actress Gong Li. She has an odd bond with young Hannibal. While Gaspard Ulliel’s portrayal of Hannibal was passable, Anthony Hopkins’ three performances in the role were undoubtedly more compelling. Ulliel’s performance was more on the sympathetic side, rather than the serial killer we all know about. I don’t see why they would cast a young French actor who can portray a French accent that Hopkins’ character did not possess at all, but Gaspard Ulliel did do a decent job, I guess.
The breathtaking cinematography was the highlight of the movie for me. The entire movie is brilliantly shot. From the beautiful colors and phenomenal locations in Europe, there was much to love about the visual pedigree of Hannibal Rising. There’s a lot to like here in the visual department, but the color grading was a bit off for me in some scenes, especially those that were indoors. The music wasn’t anything great though, with some familiar tunes coming in such as the iconic The Silence of the Lambs music, but the rest was a bit underwhelming.
Hannibal Rising is a drawn-out revenge thriller, a didactic psychological study, and too frequently the camera pans away to please a true devotee of gore-fests. Hannibal Rising may have its fans, but it’s barely worth getting out of bed and spending any money to go watch, despite its gorgeous cinematography.
- The film features brilliant cinematography
- The opening sequence within the Frozen Russian alps is truly gut-wrenching
- Gaspard Ulliel is convincing as the character, although quite different
- The story is a bland revenge thriller that lacks the gore and guts of the original Lecter films
- The acting is quite overdone at times
- There’s a lack of musical power in the film, the ambiance is missing
- There’s not much horror, nor is there much thrill here, it’s a bit lacking in every way